NOTE: This is the eighth installment of a 15-part series on 2013′s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
8. Joe Southwick, Boise State
A year ago, Southwick threw for 2,730 yards, led the Broncos to an 11-2 record and a share for the Mountain West championship during his first year as starter.
That he even appears on this list is a tribute to what Chris Peterson, with the help of former four-year starting QB Kellen Moore, has built in Boise.
Is it fair that Southwick is compared to the greatest quarterback in program history? Of course not. But that’s the case on the blue turf. Boise fans aren’t used to winning on the back of their team’s run game and defense. They’re also not accustomed to just two 300-yard passing performances and having to split conference championships.
Make no mistake: Southwick was not bad as a junior. He simply didn’t make anyone forget Moore – to which everyone should respond with a resounding “duh.”
The biggest problem is that during the Broncos’ offense failed to reward strong defensive efforts during the team’s two losses.
The season opener against Michigan State isn’t likely to be remembered as highlights for either program. Southwick completed just 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards and an interception. Yet the Broncos defense kept them in the game during the 17-13 loss. Southwick’s last chance came with slightly less than 7 minutes remaining when the Broncos failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from inside Michigan State territory.
In the loss to San Diego State, Southwick actually drove Boise State down the field for a huge touchdown but couldn’t hit on a potential 2-point conversion.
While the season can still be considered a success – the Broncos get to hang another conference championship banner from last year and won the Las Vegas Bowl. Moore’s last two years also ended in the Las Vegas Bowl.
However, the bar is a little bit higher in Boise. The Las Vegas Bowl ain’t the Fiesta Bowl – where Moore also led the Broncos. Boise State doesn’t hold itself to the standards of the Mountain West Conference much in the same way Gonzaga doesn’t concern itself with its standing in the West Coast Conference in basketball. Success is determined by where Boise ranks nationally.
And for the Broncos to return back among the nation’s elite conversation, they need more out of the quarterback position.
This year’s schedule is devoid of any marquis national games for Boise State. But it does set up with several relatively difficult road tilts, including games at Washington (season opener), Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State. Of the Broncos’ six biggest games, only one will be played on the blue turf.
A great season from Southwick could elevate the Broncos to an undefeated campaign. If Southwick doesn’t progress, though, Boise State could take another step back into the Mountain West pack.